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Is That Meeting Really Necessary?

The email notification comes in at the worst possible time. I’ve got 5 things that need to be done, all with critical importance, and not enough time to even get one task completed. Another meeting has been scheduled and it has been “strongly suggested” that I attend. Just about any issue that comes up at work prompts us to schedule a meeting these days, doesn’t it?

Sometimes meetings can be a good thing. Often meetings are treated as if they were a Google search instead. If a solution isn’t found instantly, let’s see if someone else can do that for us, right? Here is the process I try to follow when I’m deciding whether a meeting is necessary or not.

#1. Review the situation. Sometimes all I have to do is ask someone a question if I’m seeking clarity on an issue. Sometimes I can coordinate with others over the phone or with emails so the structure of a project can be created. Instead of resorting to a default “let’s call a meeting” attitude, my rule is to strategically review each situation and to only call a meeting if I’ve exhausted every other resource.

#2. Who has the expertise? Just because I’ve been assigned a project doesn’t mean I’m the expert. Sometimes I need a little outside advice to make things happen. That’s a great time to schedule a meeting because you are bringing in resources you need. Far too often, however, the temptation is to seek out that advice when it may not be needed because I’d rather procrastinate on the project. That’s a bad time to schedule a meeting. Sometimes you just need to staple your pants to a chair and work.

#3. I need an answer right now. When I’m about to finish something, but I need a second opinion, it’s nice to have a real-time conversation with someone. I’ve found there’s no better way to get the feedback you need for a quality result. Sometimes that feedback doesn’t need to happen right away, which means a meeting isn’t really necessary. I can send an email or a voicemail and wait for them to get back with me. If I need fast feedback, then a meeting can be a good thing.

#4. What is the purpose? I like to have face-to-face meetings when I’m negotiating something. Although you can do this over a video call, the body language of the person across from me is something I want to see and only a face-to-face meeting can really convey that. Answering questions, training classes, or even conflict resolution can happen outside of a traditional meeting structure quite often and take less time when you do. That’s why I feel it is important to look at the purpose being considered first.

#5. What will be the time demands? If I pull 5 people into a meeting which lasts an hour, that’s 6 hours of productivity that may be loss [when I include myself]. Now think about 20 people in a 3 hour meeting or some of the other marathons we’ve all attended in the past. The time of a meeting must meet or exceed the value of each worker staying productive with their assigned tasks. If it does, then let’s do the meeting. If not, then let’s communicate in some other way.

I’ve found that by following this process, it has been possible to reduce the number of meetings I’ve had to request. As for the meeting requests you’ll receive… that’s a different story. How have you worked to reduce the number of meetings you’ve had to call at work? I’d love to hear some of your ideas and how they’ve worked for you.

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